Well, we have been out of Wi-Fi range since Wednesday, so we have come catching up to do.
We drove away from KC with heavy, threatening weather all around us, but dry pavement underneath us. As we drove south, we had several calls from Diana’s cousin Garland France and his wife Marilyn, guiding us to where they are staying in Forsyth, which is just a few miles from Branson. As we were turning off the main highway, our faithful 2004 Subaru Forester’s odometer rolled over to 100,000 miles! We wonder where we’ll be when it hits 200,000?
We continued to be surrounded by very black skies but only a few sprinkles reached our windshield, and we were still dry when we reached Forsyth. Garland and Marilyn greeted us like long, lost friends and they generously suggested we put the teardrop in the garage before we set off to search out some of Diana’s ancestors. They, (and we), are staying at Marilyn’s mother’s home. It has been empty since her mother passed away and there is only one bed inside, but fortunately we come equipped with sleeping facilities. The house is up for sale, but they use it has a home base when they are in the Branson area.
Soon we were on our way to the White River Valley Historical Society, also in Forsyth. Diana and Marilyn poured over binders and looked up information with Garland assisting. I chatted with the woman in charge of the facility and she showed me pictures of an exhibit they had there several years ago which featured a restored teardrop trailer!
After the research was completed, we took a short drive to look at Lake Taneycomo. The last ten days of very heavy rain has increased the lake level to the point the water has covered much of the banks, engulfing some homes and causing the water to flow over the top of one of the medium-sized dams. We stopped to watch the angry brown water rushing over the dam and then returned to dinner at “Fat Daddy’s,” one of Garland’s favorite local BBQ joints. They did serve salads and baked potatoes too!
After dinner we returned to the house and spent the rest of the evening chatting, hearing stories of the early days in Taney County and the escapades of some of Garland and Diana’s ancestors. We also watched the news and heard about the awful damage and loss of life this stormy weather has done in Alabama and other states and were grateful for our safety. When we got tired, Diana and I retired to the garage for a good night’s sleep!
After a very quiet night we awoke, grabbed breakfast, and set off on a tour of the area with stops at a couple of cemeteries to look for Diana’s forebears. Along the way Garland kept up a running stream of commentary on various landmarks and the history associated with them. Many of Diana and his relatives played a role in the early days here, and his colorful descriptions really brought them to life.
It’s thought-provoking to look down at tombstones with names of people that I have been hearing about for years. We found Whites and Stinchcombs and McFarlands. The two most poignant for me were the grave of the infant daughter of the woman who raised Diana, her step-great grandmother Charlotte (Bobbie) McFarland. Then we were standing by the place where her maternal grandmother, Iris White, lies, all by herself with no relatives near her. Having scanned pictures of her as a young woman with a baby in her arms, and knowing that she became ill and died quite young, makes the experience of seeing her gravestone and being close to her a moving experience.
Along with our continuing history lessons, Garland also took us to look at the big Table Rock Dam with all of its flood gates open and more than 30,000 cubic feet of water per second pouring through them. Even so, the water is near the top of the dam, and splashing over the tops of the floodgates. The sound was impressive, and we could feel the spray on our faces from quite a distance away.
We also visited the College of the Ozarks campus which is a very impressive facility in a beautiful location. It reminds me of Berea College in Kentucky where Jakki’s Dad and Grandfather went. The students can work their way through college, and they can learn old skills, too. Garland says it is a strict school, so students have to be on their best behavior. We explored a working mill there, chatted with women making baskets and weaving cloth, and had our first experience eating “Goo Goos” a local confection consisting of chocolate, marshmallow, nuts and sometimes caramel and/or peanut butter. Looks like all the major food groups to me, so what’s not to like?
Here’s a link to the college’s Website: http://www.cofo.edu/
The day and evening continued with interesting, amazing and humorous stories of life in early Taney County. Garland has a way with words (he was an instructor in the Air Force) and the hours flew by as we listened and chatted until late. Again we nestled in our garage abode for another peaceful evening’s rest.
Today our tour guides must return home. We are going to miss their company and their vast store of knowledge of the area and Diana’s kin. We have become the best of friends and we hope they will pay us a visit whenever they come to California.
We hooked up the trailer and drove to Branson. We have a motel there for the night because Diana wants to do some additional research at the College of the Ozarks library.
After checking in to the motel we entered the college campus again, found the library and Diana was able to locate the obituary she was looking for from 1862 fairly quickly. After checking out the views of the river and landscape from behind the library, we spent a few hours exploring the contents of the Ralph Foster Museum on campus. Besides an excellent selection of items from the Branson area, there were other interesting exhibits including a large display on the creation and success of the first nationally televised country music program, “Ozark Jubilee,” which was broadcast live from Springfield, just 50 miles away.
Diana and I also visited the Titanic exhibit in Branson. We were both impressed with the quality of the presentation and the quantity of items from that famous tragedy. We spent several hours there and learned a great deal about the ship, its passengers and crew and the circumstances which led to the loss of life and vessel. There were many one-of-a-kind items, many of them from the ship or passengers themselves. If you are ever in the area, this is a must-see attraction with very little hoopla and a great deal of authenticity. http://www.titanicbranson.com/
Finally, after dinner at the Olive Garden (we decided we were on a date!) we are resting in our room and catching up the blog. Since thundershowers and rain are forecast for tomorrow and Sunday, we don’t know if we’ll continue into Arkansas tomorrow or wait until driving conditions improve. In the meantime, dear readers, we appreciate your continued interest in our adventures, and we hope we are keeping it interesting! Good night from just off the “strip” in Branson, MO!